Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: What critics are saying about Quentin Tarantino’s ‘outrageous’ new novel

Book is adapted from the filmmaker’s 2019 film of the same name

Louis Chilton
Wednesday 30 June 2021 10:48 BST
Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood - Trailer

The novelised version of Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood has been released, written by the filmmaker himself.

Published yesterday (29 June), the novel significantly diverges from the film, giving fans a more fleshed-out look at the movie’s story and universe.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood told the story of waning actor Rick Dalton (played in the film by Leonardo di Caprio) and his best friend, stunt double Cliff Boothe (Brad Pitt).

Among the plotlines expanded on in the book is a moment in which Cliff murders his wife, which the film merely implies. In the novel, Tarantino explicitly confirms that Cliff is a killer.

Here is what some critics have been saying about the novel:

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave it a glowing write up, saying: “The book is entirely outrageous and addictively readable on its own terms – even the wildly prolix digressive sections and endless savant riffs about movies and TV.”

“Tarantino has no interest in simply rehashing the film,” writes The Times’ Ed Potton. “Its emotional peaks — such as Tate’s joyous reaction to seeing her pratfall on screen reduce a cinema to laughter — are reduced here to speed bumps...

“I can’t help but admire the chutzpah, though. Tarantino, like [Martin] Amis, is a maestro of problematic, postmodern risk-taking. More importantly, he’s a lot of fun.”

The Evening Standard’s Katie Rosseinsky wrote: “It’s hard to escape the feeling that Tarantino is writing his own fanfiction — albeit with undeniable flair. At several points, he sneakily inserts versions of himself into the narrative, like the novelistic equivalent of his film cameos.

“All of his other hallmarks (spot the unnecessary references to feet) are present and correct - including shades of misogyny and the countless racial slurs which, as ever, he almost seems to be goading us with.”

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, the novel, is out at HarperCollins in the US and W&N in the UK.

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